Yet another case (like New York and initially Stockholm) where senior governments oppose city’s instituting road tolls.
Especially (but not exclusively) conservative or Republican representatives of suburban districts.

Kathleen Wynne stopping John Tory’s plan for tolls on DVP, Gardiner | Toronto Star
Last month, Toronto council overwhelmingly backed Tory’s move to impose road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, two of the region’s busiest arteries, and use the proceeds for transit. …
But both Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath are opposed to Toronto being allowed to toll its highways, meaning Wynne might have paid for it politically next year.
Inside the Liberal caucus it has been as explosive an issue as the rising hydro bills that the government, which trails  …
While Tory has a lot of support for tolling at city hall, he faced criticism from suburban councillors, worried that their constituents would be collateral damage.
Mayors from outside Toronto have also derided city council’s proposal.
Durham Region chair Roger Anderson blasted the proposal as “a short-sighted solution to Toronto’s problem
They’re literally taxing the 905 to pay for Toronto’s problems,” Anderson noted last fall.
Oshawa Mayor John Henry has also voiced his opposition.
“There’s just no more money that people have left anymore.

So few cities in the world have instituted regional tolling or congestion charges, regardless of the fact that they are user pay, that they are a market-based approach to pricing scarcity, and that they work!  Surely these are features that are very attractive to free-enterprise and market-oriented politicians.  Lots of options for privatization there too.  And yet …
Even though there is no way the provincial government in B.C. will allow a conclusion about the best way to regionally toll anytime soon, the necessity of such a mechanism becomes inevitable with the tolling of a new Massey and replacement Pattullo bridges.  No way can only South of the Fraser be the only part of the region to be tolled.
But when the debate begins, there will be strident objections: what about those who don’t drive over bridges, or don’t drive at all?  Why should only car and truck drivers pay if the value of the road system benefits all?
So here’s another possibility: In the name of equality, the Liberals might actually remove all tolls and require the revenues be made up by a combination of local and provincial sources.  No referendum, of course.


  1. “the necessity of such a mechanism becomes inevitable”
    I’m not convinced that road tolls are inevitable, or even the best choice available. They are however, also not the worst choice.
    At the present time, I wonder if (high carbon) fuel taxes combined with transit lanes might not be a better option for Metro Van and many other regions. After all, climate pollution is a far more important problem than congestion. Congestion is not a direct threat to the continuation of a decent human society; the climate crisis is. So the externality to price should logically be the existential threat rather than the annoyance.
    Fuel taxes are also much more efficient to collect – well below 1%. My understanding is that collecting a single toll costs around $0.40. So on a one dollar toll, the collection cost would be 40%. On two dollars the cost would still be 20%.
    Tolls are often a second or third choice, after provincial politicians have rejected the more efficient options. So lets be honest, they are not the worst way to fund transit but neither should we be excited about such inefficiency.

    1. Well stated, Eric. I agree. Why introduce new tolls when we already have existing ones (in the form of fuel taxes) we’re just too afraid to raise? But it doesn’t address the question. I doubt suburban commuters are turned off by tolling’s inherent inefficiencies.

    2. The problem of increased gas taxes is that even if we all drove electric vehicles they still produce much more green house gasses through road infrastructure and electricity sources that public transit, walking and cycling. People living on the boarder of the gas tax will be able to go over to another jurisdiction and avoid the tax.
      A road toll solves all those problems.

      1. You are misinformed about the environmental impacts of electric vehicles. They pay off in terms of CO2 emissions within a year or two generally unless you power them entirely with coal.
        Stats I’ve read say that an EV takes about 6 tonnes more emissions to make than a normal car, but will emit virtually nothing for the rest of it’s operating life if powered with renewables. Say a 300,000km operating life for the car, and a 12 tonne CO2 equivalent manufacturing output, the car would then uses 40g CO2 emissions per km, many times lower than a normal car.
        Cycling generally produces at least this much due to increased food consumption, but part of that already comes out of the biosphere which makes it harder to estimate.
        There are very few modes of transit in Vancouver with a lower footprint than electric cars, and those are probably subways/skytrain, and trolley busses. Any fossil fuel powered vehicles will have a higher per passenger emissions amount.

        1. I didn’t ignore your argument. I pointed out that a statement in it was grossly incorrect.
          That article basically makes the exact same point I was making, except elaborates more on the material supply portion and doesn’t give actual values for carbon emissions. Basically, using average US grid electricity, they’re still cleaner in the article than the gas powered alternative. Using BC grid electricity (which is way cleaner, 4g CO2/kWh) you’re way ahead of any conventionally powered vehicle and many forms of transit.
          Regarding the material impacts, I probably have more experience in this area than 99% of the population being a mining and mineral processing engineer. That part is the emissions I referred to as 12 tonnes per car manufacturing emissions. The mining industry can also be greened relatively easily with the overall cleaning of the grid and use of electrical mining equipment. Many major mining companies are also investing in their own renewable generation equipment. Mining companies such as Teck for instance have also always owned their own hydroelectric dams.
          Most major mining companies are also already moving towards electrical mining equipment due to reduced ventilation requirements when operating underground, reduced maintenance and easier to predict operating costs.
          Tolls are fine, but the overhead is huge on them, so small tolls will never make sense. Multiple jurisdictions in the US are already looking at alternative taxing measures for EVs, but there isn’t any pressure there yet since critical mass hasn’t been achieved. The benefits of not having several hundred thousand point sources of pollution on the public coffer would also likely greatly exceed the loss of gas taxes.

  2. Tory should just close down the highways and rightfully claim that the city cannot afford to pay for their maintenance. It is so unfair that Toronto residents have to subsidize suburban drivers. We have a similar though not so dire a situation in Vancouver, where residents pay a lot to maintain the arterials which are mostly used by out of town commuters and visitors. Worst of all is that our good city is criticized for not doing enough!

    1. Pay a lot to maintain arterials? When was the last time you saw the city actually repave an arterial? Most of the pothole repair is due to heavy vehicles like busses or all the tandem dump trucks involved in buildings those condos so enamoured by posters here. Of course the biggest flaw in that argument is that you assign no value to the city attracting alll those people whip enter into it to work and spend. It’s just the same old raise the drawbridge mentality so frequently on display.

      1. The last major one was the rebuilding of SW Marine Drive IIRC.
        Burrard St rebuilding is still going on.
        Do those count?

      2. Bob – I’m not raising any drawbrdge – far from it. I just want some recognition that with high property taxes for municipal (roads, etc), regional (TransLink, Metro) and provincial (education, assessment authority) Vancouver residents are heavily subsidising residents living outside Vancouver. Our city gets a lot of undeserved flak from outsiders and the least they could do is thank us for our largess.

        1. If the Big Smoke was its own city-state, then it could loan the smaller communities who ritually mock the Metro the money that is removed from the city and otherwise redirected by the province to its own coffers and smaller jurisdictions. Why not earn back all of the funds sucked out of the city with some added interest?

    2. It is a key distinction that Toronto wants to recoup its operating costs to maintain the Gardiner. Tolls are usually put in place to recoup only the up-front capital costs and, if wisdom prevails (not likely with road culture) a part of the debt. Long-term operating costs are usually deferred or downloaded to jurisdictional underlings.
      It’s also important to point out that transit is tolled from Day One, and has always recouped a portion of its operating costs. It stands to reason that if society continues to bear the burden of free roads, then it should also provide free transit.

  3. Nobody ever said the “right” is logical, fair, or that they base their policies on reality. The “right” is an emotional, fear-based entity that uses simplistic arguments that make great sound bites and cater to people with not enough time to think.
    Which is exactly the kind of society the “right” wants: over-worked and barely making ends meet. If someone has a spare dime they are talked out of it with a barrage of advertising.

  4. The headline is a bit strange.
    John Tory, ex Conservative Party of Ontario leader, is considered to be more to right than Kathleen Wynne. Andrew Coyne wrote: “Kathleen Wynne won the Ontario election on an aggressively left-wing budget/platform …”

    1. Might be the first time Eric and I have agreed on something….
      Title seems somewhat focused on making this a right-left issue, when it appears to be much more of a municipal-provincial power struggle, or urban-suburban values issue. There may be some correlation between urban-suburban and political leaning, but not always.

  5. It would also be interesting to clarify what we’re collectively trying to solve with “regional tolling”.
    If it’s sustainable funding for transit, that may lead you down one path, if it’s congestion reduction, a different set of options may present. If it’s emissions reduction, a third set of approaches may make sense. If it’s regional equity, perhaps a fourth set of priorities. Still not clear to me what we’re collectively seeking to achieve, or what the prioritization of these and other goals are.
    Simply talking about regional charging in the absence of goals seems like arbitrary policy making in my mind.

  6. “Why does the right oppose road tolls?”
    I know that it’s orthodoxy to say that conservative-leaning people are the boogeymen responsible for all the world’s ills, but if you’re going to toe that line, could you please try to use an example that inspires less cognitive dissonance?
    The right-wing Mayor of Toronto (former provincial Conservative party leader, who campaigned on low taxes and responsible spending) was the one who championed road tolls. And it was the left-wing government of lesbian tax-and-spend Liberal Kathleen Wynne that quashed it.

      1. Being Left/Right can refer to economic or to social issues. John “white privilege doesn’t exist” Tory and Kathleen “teach 6-year-olds there are 6 genders” Wynne fit on their respective right/left axes for both, that’s why it came up.

  7. I think that people oppose tolls because they restrict freedom of movement.
    I also agree that the costs of the infrastructure can be raised from general revenue.
    Regarding freedom of movement, there are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily in complete control of their travel requirements. i.e. those in the service or blue collar industries aren’t necessarily near efficient transit (think Annacis Island industrial areas), so tolls would disproportionately impact some workers more than other workers – and then you get into the question of whether the affected workers are high or low wage earners (and the proportionate cost to them of the added toll burden). Sure, executives or downtown office workers may be able to handle the added burden, but can someone who makes $50.000 per year working in a remote location?
    The whole issue of infrastructure paying for itself is a recent political viewpoint.
    Most infrastructure does not pay for itself.
    – water supply, filtration and reservoirs (water is still largely unmetered)
    – sewerage lines and treatment plants
    – hospitals
    – schools (especially for those without children)
    – transit
    – parks
    – community centres
    – libraries
    There are many people who don’t use these facilities or services, yet pay for them through taxes.
    If you’re asking road users to pay for the costs of building and maintaining roads – user pay – then the other services and facilities noted above should also be “user pay”.
    Otherwise, don’t cherry-pick and fund everything from general revenue (or the municipal equivalent – property taxes).

    1. Much of our current “public” infrastructure is already priced say $6 for pool use, $6000/year for university education, $1 to borrow a book, 30 cents per liter of gasoline, airport improvements fees of $12, passport application for $150 (and more if rush job), $10 to park in Stanley park etc .. so the question is why are roads generally free ? The answer used to be: it was hard to toll and road use is in everything so it would act as a general PST or GST tax increase (i.e. even as a pricetag blogging hard core biker or walker your bread or yogurt to the store comes by truck and as such your yogurt or bread price would go o slightly)
      However, with several expensive to remove bottlenecks at certain choke points at certain times of the day that debate is crucial. Higher prices generally induce less demand, so for example: if you charge a $20/crossing toll on Lionsgate bridge between 7 and 9 am and 4 to 6pm far more people would go before 7 am, wait to 9 am or 6 pm .. and it would smooth out the traffic. If you charged $10 anyway, per direction, far more folks would say :”screw it, I am taking the bus” reducing load even further so that folks that pay the $10 get a faster throughput. Ditto with healthcare which has a very weird system as it allows some firms like physios, ear & eye doctors, dentists or psychologists to charge by the h or per service (essentially price unregulated ie no fixed fee set) wheres others are expected to be free (knee surgery, consultation, operations on internal organs, ..). Road tolls to me make far more sense than gasoline surcharges as gasoline surcharges merely induce smaller more efficient cars and electric cars don;t pay any. It is more of an air quality than a congestion fee. That debate of course is missing at Massey Bridge or almost another other choke point in MetroVan. it is beyond me why they abolished the toll on the Coquahalla. If MetroVan charged heavy tolls for trucks and light tolls on every bridge it would be an enormous money maker and congestion reducer, especially if the toll is tripe to quintuple at rush hour.

  8. Those people who are disproportionately affected will pass on the costs just like their competitors will and those of them who make smarter transportation/location choices will be more successful – just like those who choose where to open any business. But passing on costs doesn’t cost more if the taxes you’re not paying to subsidize the business never left your pocket in the first place.
    All services where over-use leads to environmental, social and/or economic degradation should be considered for user pay. Certainly water and sewer as well as roads.
    Parks, libraries, education and health services need to be treated more carefully for many reasons. But the determination of the “right” to accentuate the divide between rich and poor is the root problem. If there was much closer economic equality among everyone then user-pay might make sense in all cases.
    Furthermore, we use “the poor” as an excuse to avoid road tolls but we don’t use “the poor” to create cities where people don’t need cars in the first place.

    1. So, higher GSt and PST on everything as any product degrades the environment. Or a “environmental impact agency” to assess GST or PST by merit ?
      Worst offender: chewing gum. Cheap yet sticks to the ground and sits in landfills for decades. Needs a 1000% GST for value of each gum.
      I also think our packaging is taxed far FAR too low as we throw away far too much plastic, glass, multi-compound material .. and could do with better more recyclable material.

      1. Chewing gum?
        How about oil? Coal? Cigarette butts? Pesticides? Excessive nitrogen fertilizer applications? GMOs?
        I agree with you on packaging.

        1. Oil and energy is in almost everything. As such, with sharper higher CO2 taxes already planned for Canada, where is the corresponding tax relief elsewhere, say PST, GST or income taxes ?
          Ditto fertilizer: food prices would go up sharply in addition to oil used to transport it. Will people tolerate the 2-3 times higher food prices as mass starvation would be the result until efficient alternatives for transportation energy & fertilizer not derived from oil arrive on a mass scale.
          Some energy related pubs here
          Canada energy outlook:
          US energy outlook to 2050: Slight drop in coal use while renewables pick that up .. with fast rising gas use and slightly rising oil use. So no major change in the next 25 years.
          But yes, pollution and waste is underpriced !

        2. The EIA and the IEA have been grossly wrong before. It’s best to obtain independent peer-reviewed analysis from geologists and non-affiliated industry analysts, and give investment bank hype a wide berth.
          As for “no major change in the next 25 years”, I suppose that means no change in the interest rates that will greatly influence debt-saturated shale driller’s existence? Or that the North Sea geological formations, long in depletion, will magically fill up again out of nowhere? Or that oil prices, which are always on a roller coaster ride, won’t cause more recessions at either the high or low ends?
          Sweeping statements need rebuttal.

        3. Excessive fertilizer use drives UP food prices by destroying natural soil fertility. Both suburban sprawl and soil mismanagement are destroying arable land.
          Any tax applied to an unwanted things can be reduced on desirable things. No net cost to society.
          Fossil fuel demand projections are persistently falling from report to report, year to year and now month to month. These days I’m less concerned about the speed at which we’ll make the transition and much more concerned about the unimaginable mess those industries will leave behind as they bankrupt themselves in a myopic and economically disastrous race to remain relevant.
          If it isn’t growing it is failing. That is the way our system works. The bigger they are the harder they’ll fall.
          Think about that.
          I predict the tar sands will be left entirely to the taxpayer to clean up. There will be no viable industry left to finance it. The amount currently held in trust remains less than 5% of what is required. We’ll be immensely lucky if we manage to contain and deal with the tailing ponds alone, before they breach into the Mackenzie River system. There will be no money left to restore the moonscape that was once a beautiful boreal forest filled with caribou. And that’s just the tar sands. Entire governments are going to teeter on the edge of bankruptcy in the not too distant future.
          And that’s just the way the “right” wants it.

        4. The cheap pixie dust that will fuel 1B vehicles without oil is just around the corner ?
          Since 10,000+ products are made from oil, is used in fertilizer AND in transportation it is very VERY hard to replace economically. Give it 100 years, from the peak in 2040 as oil consumption is predicted to grow to 120M barrel a day from today’s close to 100M barrels to 120M by 2040, roughly 1M daily barrel more per year !
          Also see our Federal Liberal’s generous $300M+ loan to Bombardier this week. Hint: it is not for e-planes !

        5. Thomas, you won’t be around in 2040, let alone 100 years afterward, so it’s pretty easy for you to ape such predictions. The IEA etc. need to keep fossil fuel share prices up as long as possible so they forecast unrealistically high demand. The pending downward spiral of fossil fuel stocks will make 2008 look quaint. Divest now if you’re smart.
          Peak demand will be around 2025 and it will fall precipitously after that. No pixie dust required – just the current exponential growth rate of renewables and other innovations. Durable plastics and aircraft fuel will be the only things keeping the industry from becoming completely obsolete.

        6. Thomas, the deep dependency of the world economy on finite oil is a serious liability, not an advantage as you ascribe. You consistently lump together cheap conventional oil with expensive unconventional oil, and fail to explain why the transition to the latter has already occurred.
          That’s the supply side. Ron has touched on the lowering demand as cheap wind, solar and conservation measures take effect.
          The best thing we can do is to plan for a ~1/3rd reduction in overall energy. That means compact cities and towns linked together with electrified transport, filled with very energy efficient buildings, and situated very close to food-producing land. If we don’t do it, then the laws of physics will do it for us as they play out in the economy.

  9. Disappointing this post buys into the whole ‘left right’ narrative. It’s cheap, simple and and just sets up the issue as a conflict or worse just a pissing match of extreme examples on either end.

  10. The Ontario liberals are not right at all. They are affilated with the federal liberals, and they are center-left. Plus, I live in Toronto, and Wynne has no idea what she’s doing. Gas prices are going through the roof, a cap and trade tax is halting the economy, and electricity is just outrageous. Most people would say that I am right wing, even libertarian. I am the biggest proponent of toll roads.

    1. How about removing fossil fuel subsidies? If we’d done that 100 years ago and stuck with it we’d be in a much better place.
      Unfortunately there will be some short-term costs associated with the switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Governments are going to take some heat for that and probably not get it exactly right every time, But responsible ones will create policy to help get it done anyway.
      We have mostly irresponsible governments because irresponsible (mostly “right”) governments tell a simplistic story that appeals to voters too busy to make ends meet to think about their children’s future. Ironically it it is the policies of the “right” that put them in the position of having no time to think in the first place. Ironic – but not accidental.

      1. The “switch” is a very gradual move, primarily for electric energy production where we will phase out oil or coal, and replace it with gas and solar (and wind) gradually. Almost NO discernible change for transportation energy use for decades. Very VERY gradually due to scale. See here for US to 2050, 35 years out: almost NO drop in oil consumption. NONE.

        1. Transportation energy use is not all energy use. Projecting ahead 35 years is crazy for a volatile commodity. No one, not the EIA or the IEA, predicted the price crash of the last two years due to a US shale glut, except the independent geologists and analysts who looked at the actual production data and compared it to the shale producer’s debt servicing levels. Drill baby drill … gotta make the payments and pay off the investment bank hype-meisters.
          And where in the EIA report (link doesn’t work, BTW) does it explain the precipitous decline levels of shale, and the fact that two of five US formations are now over the brink with the rest following by about 2025? Where does it predict the price of oil when all you have left is extremely expensive and hard to reach and extract deposits (deep sea, tar sands, shale) in the context of cheaper renewables and greater energy efficiency coming on stream?
          There is also a direct relation ship between oil price spikes and troughs and recessions. What about interest rate hikes?
          Thirty five years of fossil fuel stability is complete fantasy. Even if it was realistic, what then?

  11. It was the right (the conservatives) AND the left (NDP) who both opposed the tolls, as well as the suburban MPs in the Liberal caucus. After the whole Hydro tumult, Wynne was not willing to go out on a limb to support tolling, given how the other two parties would have both hammered her for it.

  12. “[Why do conservatives oppose tolls]… regardless of the fact that they are user pay, that they are a market-based approach to pricing scarcity, and that they work! Surely these are features that are very attractive to free-enterprise and market-oriented politicians. Lots of options for privatization there too.”
    Excellent question!
    I believe it has something to do with what I read here:
    As a Friedmanite-libertarian, occasional enmity towards cities from libertarians had always perplexed me until I read that.
    Know thy enemy…

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